Cost effectiveness of a pharmacy-only refill program in a large urban HIV/AIDS clinic in Uganda

PLoS One. 2011 Mar 28;6(3):e18193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018193.


Background: HIV/AIDS clinics in Uganda and other low-income countries face increasing numbers of patients and workforce shortages. We performed a cost-effectiveness analysis comparing a Pharmacy-only Refill Program (PRP), a form of task-shifting, to the Standard of Care (SOC) at a large HIV/AIDS clinic in Uganda, the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI). The PRP was started to reduce workforce shortages and optimize patient care by substituting pharmacy visits for SOC involving monthly physician visits for accessing antiretroviral medicines.

Methodology/principal findings: We used a retrospective cohort analysis to compare the effectiveness of the PRP compared to SOC. Effectiveness was defined as Favorable Immune Response (FIR), measured as having a CD4 lymphocyte count of over 500 cells/µl at follow-up. We used multivariate logistic regression to assess the difference in FIR between patients in the PRP and SOC. We incorporated estimates of effectiveness into an incremental cost-effectiveness analysis performed from a limited societal perspective. We estimated costs from previous studies at IDI and conducted univariate and probabilistic sensitivity analyses. We identified 829 patients, 578 in the PRP and 251 in SOC. After 12.8 months (PRP) and 15.1 months (SOC) of follow-up, 18.9% of patients had a FIR, 18.6% in the PRP and 19.6% in SOC. There was a non-significant 9% decrease in the odds of having a FIR for PRP compared to SOC after adjusting for other variables (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.55-1.58). The PRP was less costly than the SOC (US$ 520 vs. 655 annually, respectively). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio comparing PRP to SOC was US$ 13,500 per FIR. PRP remained cost-effective at univariate and probabilistic sensitivity analysis.

Conclusion/significance: The PRP is more cost-effective than the standard of care. Similar task-shifting programs might help large HIV/AIDS clinics in Uganda and other low-income countries to cope with increasing numbers of patients seeking care.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / economics*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Adult
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count / economics
  • Cities*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pharmacy*
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • Standard of Care
  • Uganda


  • Prescription Drugs